Options for collaboration

The consideration of options for collaboration is at least partly dependent on the type of partnership. This includes not only the generic forms (i.e. institutionalised, co-funded and co-programmed) but also their function in the European R&I landscape. Two main functions are apparent amongst the candidate partnerships for Horizon Europe:

  • Horizontal partnerships, which focus on the development of technologies, methods, and resources/materials
  • Vertical partnerships that are focussed on the challenges in a specific application area, be it ‘industrial’ or ‘societal’

Options for collaboration between European Partnerships under Horizon Europe can take two main forms: bilateral or multilateral

Bilateral Collaboration

The simplest option for collaboration is between individual partnerships where there are clear linkages in specific areas. For example, the ‘clean hydrogen’ and ‘clean steel’ partnerships both acknowledge the logic for such collaboration, which can be differentiated from the multilateral potential for clean hydrogen in the energy, transport & mobility domains or via the increasing number of ‘hydrogen valley’ initiatives in European regions. Another is the ‘photonics’ partnership, where there are specific opportunities in areas such as healthcare diagnostics, food safety and automated transport.

In Horizon 2020, bilateral collaboration was quite common amongst some of the public-public partnerships (P2Ps), including cross-partnership joint research calls. There is also evidence of collaboration between some of the public-private partnerships (PPPs), such as joint workshops on digital health (involving IMI2 and ECSEL).

In the P2P domain, the JPIs were particularly proactive in bi-lateral collaboration both with other JPIs and with ERA-NETs in areas of common interest. An example where this is being extended further into tri-lateral collaboration is the ‘aquatic pollutants’ ERA-NET Cofund. This was launched by three JPIs (water, oceans and antimicrobial resistance) in January 2020 and is aimed at addressing risks posed to human health and the environment by pollutants, pathogens and antimicrobial resistant bacteria in our water bodies and oceans. As well as launching joint calls, the collaborative project will also allow them to develop a joint strategy to work together, and with others, on this important subject.

Multilateral Collaboration

In some areas there is considerable scope for multilateral collaboration between partnerships. This is particularly obvious for the horizontal partnerships that offer enabling technologies to address the socio-economic challenges of the application orientated partnerships. Some are developing new governance models or frameworks for such multilateral collaboration. For example:

  • The ‘European metrology’ partnership, which is planning to establish European Metrology Networks (EMNs) in various fields (e.g. advanced manufacturing, climate & energy observation, energy gases, food safety, health innovation, laboratory medicine, medical device regulation and smart electricity grids) to better meet the needs of end users. These should also offer an ideal structure to engage with relevant partnerships in the associated fields.
  • The ‘photonics’ partnership is planning to organise its activities through a core working group and six application working groups (agro & food; digital infrastructure; health; manufacturing; mobility & energy; and safety, security, space & defence). This will allow it to work in parallel on the further development of core photonics technologies (TRL2-7) and engage with up to 26 other partnerships on application-orientated joint calls (TRL5-9) with end user sectors and other key enabling technologies.
  • The ‘clean hydrogen’ partnership is planning to formalise its engagement with seven relevant end-user partnerships related to transport and industry applications through a ‘sector integration committee’

The above examples indicate that some partnerships have the potential to play a truly pivotal role in leading and fostering multilateral collaboration either because of their interdisciplinary focus and/or position in transformational supply chains. As well as playing a coordinating role to bring together synergetic partnerships they may also be well placed to lead the engagement with other key players in the European R&I landscape that may have a role to play in addressing the economic or societal challenges. These could include:

  • Challenge-based partnerships, such as ‘driving urban transitions’ that need both a strategic vision and an interdisciplinary approach. Various possible modes of interaction are being explored with synergetic partnerships including clean energy transition, people-centric sustainable built environment, rescuing biodiversity, safe and sustainable food system, 2ZERO, CCAM and Water4All. This includes structures for regular exchange with the aim of implementing joint calls, joint workshops, coordinated stakeholder engagement and supporting wider dissemination and replication.
  • Converging technology partnerships, such as ‘smart networks and services’ and ‘batteries’ that have the potential to play a pivotal role in disruptive or transformational supply chains. For example, the SNS partnership expects to collaborate with the other four ‘digital’ ones in the development of 5G network technologies and with key application partnerships like ‘transforming Europe’s rail system’ and ‘connected and automated driving’ in their deployment.
  • Cross-cutting challenge partnerships, such as ‘rescuing biodiversity’ that is proposing to set up a ‘biodiversity forum’ involving at least eight other partnerships across several clusters.

For collaborations that involve several partnerships, it is important to reflect how this could fit within the future governance of Horizon Europe. Assuming that the latter will be largely built around clusters, it is important to identify where there is scope for collaboration that does not easily sit within the cluster logic and requires another approach (i.e. topics of cross-cluster importance). The potential role of the Programme Committees for the EU Framework Programme may also be a consideration in improving the overall coherence of partnerships with the national/EU activities.

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